For those of you who may know me, I spent the bulk of my life living in cities. Houston, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, even a stint in New Orleans. And a great many of my romances and women’s fiction novels were set in even bigger places, Paris, London, Venice, Moscow. So, now what would look like “all of a sudden”, I am not only living in my hometown, a small town, but I am writing a series of romances set in the small Indiana town of Indian Lake.
I moved back home ostensibly to take care of my aging and ill mother whom the doctors thought only had about a year to live. My husband and I, rented out his house in Scottsdale, packed up a very large truck full of furniture and Christmas ornaments (a story in itself), and moved into the home my parents built in 1950. A few months before the trek from Arizona to Indiana, my sister and I had moved my mother to an assisted living facility since mother was no longer able to care for herself. Within nine months of my move back home, my sister was diagnosed with cancer and five months later she died. Two years later, my mother died.
This first book in my series, LOVE SHADOWS, was born out of my grief over losing my two best friends and most loving supporters in my life. It wasn’t hard for me to imagine what my heroine and hero would endure as they trod through days of depression before they learned to open their hearts and love again.
Writing has always been cathartic for me, if not an absolute escape from things I’d rather not do, especially dusting, grocery shopping and weeding the garden. But as I began to build my idealized version of my hometown, Indian Lake, I also looked around with new eyes to see what small towns were all about and just who were these fascinating people that populated them.
From the fact that my town has a thirty-one year old female mayor, who is ex-Navy and looks like a cover girl model, to the dedicated and energetic eighty-something-year-old woman who had been organizing “Arts in the Park” free open-air summer concerts for decades, I found dozens of stories without even looking. My list of strong, independent, sometimes eccentric women and men grew faster than I could write down their names and particular foibles. I drew out a grid of the core of the town and as I placed each house, I knew each person had to have neighbors, which created more characters. And those neighbors had to have children and cousins, co-workers and dogs. Lots of dogs. A story, and a life, isn’t complete without animals, I believe.
You would think that as I started actually putting down each story into a synopsis, that my “running to the well” would whittle my pile of characters and plots down to size. Not so. Each time I’ve written a story, one of the characters who was innocently purchasing a bottle of wine at the Crenshaw Vineyard or buying a cupcake at Cupcakes and Coffee Cafe, was soon destined to find themselves embroiled in a tumultuous love story of their own. I like to think out of the box and stretch myself, though sometimes, I’m a bit too elastic like that guy in the Fantastic Four.. My very astute editors, Victoria Curran and Claire Caldwell, have given me a green light to explore a romance between a couple who are well into their fifties. I’ve even started to develop a sweet romance between Grandpa Sam who is seventy-five years old and a younger woman who is about to become a widow in my next book.
And that is what I have discovered about small towns, large cities and even foreign capitals. It doesn’t matter where you live, love is what makes life worth living. Without love, we just exist. A life without love, is no life at all.